What is life? Why am I here?

Certain questions indicate the maturity of our mind. Do you know what those questions are? They are: What is life? What is the purpose of my life? Why am I here? What do I want?

 

If these questions arise in your mind, it is a sign of the mind or intellect getting matured. Otherwise the mind is just in routine doing the same thing again and again, not even introspecting looking into the source of life.

 

These questions are vital. Where am I? Are you aware you are on this planet Earth? Have you ever thought “I am on planet Earth and this planet is in the solar system”? So, I am in the solar system. The solar system is just a dot in the Milky Way. So, I am in the Milky Way. This expansion of awareness to the macrocosm and being aware of where you are in this body is important. Just sit with your eyes closed and ask yourself “where am I in this body”? Am I in the head, in the nose, in the heart? Where am I in the body? Then the sharpness of the mind happens, awareness happens. You are able to perceive that you are nowhere and you are everywhere in the body. A shift in the quality of awareness happens instantaneously. And it is this awareness that can eliminate stresses and sorrows from life. This awareness is called wisdom.

 

Every living being wants happiness, everyone wants to be in love. Everyone wants to be loved and everyone wants to give love. Right? There is not a single creature on this planet that doesn’t like love. And do you know that love is the cause of all misery also? Love is the cause of jealousy, anger, hatred, fear, everything. The basis of all problems in the world is again love! You have two choices. You can be indifferent or be in love and go through the suffering. Is there any other third hope for being in love and not facing all the miseries? Yes. It is through awareness.

 

When we raise our consciousness, we become more aware of the sensation that is happening in the body and we see that the sensations change. An intense sensation that is pain and an intense sensation that is pleasure, both become pleasurable. Love and pain, they are very closely related. The symbol of Jesus on the cross means that the cross is pain and Jesus is love. One is with the other. The transformation of this pain into bliss, the love into bliss is what happens with awareness.

 

The same happens with doubts. Have you noticed doubts are always about something positive? We never doubt anything negative in life. You never doubt someone else’s anger or your anger.

 

You never doubt your depression. Nobody ever doubts his/her depression. But when one is happy, one doubts, am I really happy? If someone tells you they hate you, you don’t doubt it but if someone tells you they love you, you say: “Really? Are you sure?”

 

If we can doubt in the negativity of people, we become close to the reality. Do you see what I am saying? We take it for granted that everybody is a hoax or a fraud and then we try to find somebody we can trust. It becomes so difficult in the world. Sometimes you have a lot of doubts in your mind. But when you increase the energy level in your body, you will see that the doubts disappear. There is more clarity in the mind. Confusion goes away from the mind.

 

Without this awareness the mind shrinks. When the mind shrinks, the joy diminishes. Whenever we are happy, we feel that something in us is expanding and the expression of sadness is the contraction of mind.

 

Meditation is a technique where the mind expands and relaxes. And whenever we are relaxed, we are expanding automatically. It is worth knowing this expansion because then nothing can disturb us or take our smile away. Otherwise, some small things can throw us off the balance. It is not worth letting your mind or your life undergo such suffering, such misery. Do you see that?

Happiness is…

 

Every moment that you spend here on this planet, know that you are for a unique, big purpose, far greater than just to eat, sleep and talk. You are here for a greater cause. Just remember that.

 

Take a challenge — “Come what may, I am going to smile today and be happy!”

 

For our growth, and to strengthen our lives, we need to follow some rules. These rules are called “yama” (social ethics) and “niyama”(personal ethics). They are the first two steps (or limbs) of yoga of inner union.

 

Yama

 

There are five rules to living peacefully in society and the environment:

 

The first rule is “ahimsa” or non-violence. Non-violence unites you with the whole of creation. Just as you don’t harm yourself, you don’t harm the rest of creation. Everything is part of you, so how can you harm anything? Ahimsa is the practice of yoga, of not harming, and realising that everything is here.

 

The second rule is “satyam” or truthfulness. You don’t lie to yourself, do you? You can’t lie to yourself. If you are weaving beads, you don’t say, “I am not weaving beads.” You are, and you know it. When you have chocolate in your hand, you don’t say, “I don’t have chocolate in my hand.” You do have chocolate in your hand!

 

The third is “astheya”, meaning, not missing what you don’t have at this moment, nor wishing things were different from what they are at the moment — not regretting. Astheya is not: “I wish I had a voice like that person! I wish I could sing like that person. I wish I were young like that person. I wish I could run like that person. I wish I could be as intelligent as that person…” It is not comparing yourself with others, and wishing for what they have and you don’t have.

 

Fourth is “brahmacharya”, meaning, not interested in the shapes and forms of the body. The mind, here, sees beyond the physical, to the infinite. Brahmacharya is keeping the mind on bigger things. “Brahma” means big; moving in bigger things. “I am small”, “I am a man”, “I am a woman”, “I am a good person”, “I am a bad person”, “I am hopeless” — all these are small identifications.

 

Fifth is “aparigraha”, meaning, not taking what people give you. You know, it is surprising that you often take the insults people give you, much more than their compliments! Right? Sometimes, they are not even “giving” you these insults — they are simply taking the insults “out of their pockets”, but you grab them, and keep them very safe with you! If someone is giving you garbage, they may not even really be giving you the garbage — they may simply be throwing it out, but you collect the garbage and hold on to it very safely! This is what most people do. They are ready to bounce up, take negativity and keep it to themselves.

 

Don’t take anything from anybody, including insults! Of course, compliments don’t really bother us! They just go to our heads! What really bother us are the insults, the hurt, and all the negative words that we take from people. Don’t take them! Do you understand? This is aparigraha.

 

Niyama

 

There are five rules for one’s inner development:

 

The first is “shaucha”, everyday cleanliness. It includes showering and keeping yourself clean, wearing clean clothes, and seeing that you don’t have bad breath. If someone stinks, they don’t notice it, but those sitting next to them do!

 

The second is “santosha” or contentment… happiness. Be happy! If you don’t take a step towards being happy, nothing in this world can make you happy, and you go on complaining about this and that.

 

Once, a farmer was complaining that the apples on his trees were not too good. Then, one year, he had very good apples! He had apples in plenty — three times more than the usual crop! Then he started complaining about having too much work to do, about having to pick all those apples, about how many were rotting, and about how the prices had gone down!

 

There’s no end to complaining — but life goes on anyway! It flows like a river. How do you want to live the rest of your life — the remaining 30, 40, or 50 years?

 

Smiling… or grumbling, feeling horrible about yourself, and blaming the whole world? So, the second rule is to be happy and content.

 

Third is “tapas” — forbearance or penance — meaning, something is uncomfortable, but you still put up with it happily. It’s like people who go on marathon walks for 20 miles or 20 kilometres. If we had to simply walk 20 kilometres, we would grumble, but when it’s a marathon, then one says, “Oh! I am going to walk!”

 

Whether you walk in a marathon, or you walk because your car broke down, your legs go through the same pain! But when you think you’re in a marathon, you come back the same, sweating and tired, but with a smile: “Oh! I did it!” This is tapas — willingly taking it. Suppose you have to travel in a plane for a long time — say eight or ten hours — what do you do? If you were asked to sit for ten hours, you would never do it, but in a plane, there is no way out! You have to sit… with a seatbelt on! You can watch TV to keep your mind occupied, but you still have to sit! So, willingly accepting opposites is tapas. This makes your body and mind strong.

 

Whatever you can change, change. What you cannot change, accept. If it is too cold, put on a sweater. It’s as simple as that! When it is raining very heavily, and you get wet, inspite of an umbrella — get wet!

 

Fourth is self-study — “swadhyaya”. Observe your mind, see what your mind says, how you behave, how you act, how you feel… Do you feel good? Do you feel bad? If you are feeling bad, just observe, you start feeling good again. When you are feeling good, observe. All feelings — good or bad — will change. Swadhyaya is self-study, self-observation.

 

Fifth is “ishwara pranidhaana”, meaning, love for the Divine. Surrender to the Divine. When you feel you are helpless, you say, “Oh, God! You take whatever it is that I am feeling!”

 

These are the ten rules that will make you strong, and feel whole and complete.

Like charity, community reform begins at home

Like every individual, every community has its flaws. Community reforms need to be an o n-going process. Such reforms have taken place in every religion, race, caste and community over the years. We often hear of communities running down each other. Accusations and counter-accusations bring anger and hatred or guilt and shame in the community concerned — never leading to change or reform.

 

If you want to bring about reform, making a person or a community feel ashamed is the last thing to do. Reform can come only from within a community; a non-Hindu cannot bring a change among the Hindus or non-Muslim among the Muslims. It is futile to point fingers at others; instead, every community should look inward to bring social transformation.

 

Take the case of 75-year-old Uduppi Pejavar Swamiji. He has brought about a visible change in the thinking of the Madhwa Brahmins. Four decades ago, a community which never even treated fellow Smartha Brahmins well and detested anybody with Vibhuti on their foreheads, now welcomes everyone and dines together.

 

Despite his fragile body and hundreds of restrictions of a monk’s life, Pejavar Swamiji travelled through the length and breadth of the country. However, such yeomen service remains unrecognised due to prejudice. Once I was to share the stage with Swamiji and a well-wisher journalist warned me against it because of his association with the Hindutva movement. I asked, ‘‘So what? He is a revered saint; I have seen his work. So why should I not share the stage with him?’’

 

It’s becoming taboo to share the stage with people subscribing to different ideologies. This is not our culture; in the Indian tradition even atheists are known to share the stage with believers. Unless people of different ideologies come together, how can there be harmony? Once you share the stage with them, you will stop blaming others. This is when one starts looking inwards.

 

Interaction among people of opposing ideologies is a sign of civilised society. Communists or Leftists treat religious leaders as untouchables. In a recent health conference, the Communists refused to share the stage with spiritual leaders. This is absurd; considering that yoga, meditation and spirituality are an integral part of the health-care system. Body-mind medicine is the trend of the current century. How can you administer a society when you keep away from a section of society?

 

There are good people in every community. It is ridiculous to build more walls in the name of ideology, religion, sect and political affiliation. Every community uses great reformers for projecting its own interests. Instead of internalising their wisdom, the community makes them a captive of narrow identities. Though Dr. Ambedkar worked for the whole society, a particular community claims complete ownership over him. Similarly, a section of Hindus claim ownership for Swami Vivekananda. Although Maharishi Valmiki belongs to entire humanity, a particular community has used his name for its identity. Though Mahatma Gandhi worked for the entire Indian subcontinent, Pakistan and Bangladesh seldom remember him.

 

It is unfortunate that the names of such great reformers are being used to strengthen social differences contrary to their own teachings. Dr Ambedkar wanted a unified India, not a divided India; so did Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi.

 

As long as the perception remains that a reformer belongs only to his or her small community, it will be difficult for a new horizon to dawn. Even today, there are Hindu temples where Dalits and people of other faiths are not allowed. We need reform in these areas of social development. Hindu leaders themselves should work on these reforms. An external pressure cannot make this work — rather than bringing people together, it will widen the divide. Of late, there have been calls for minority communities, scheduled castes and tribes to unite. Why just them? Why not all the others too unite with them? Such selective unity will polarise our society.

 

The Brahmins were never a united force, but now the Brahmins are uniting because it has become an issue of survival for them. Similarly, communities will start uniting in the name of religion and castes, leading to conflict.

 

Criticising Gods, philosophies, life styles and prophets of other religions can only widen the gap. Let the Hindus work to reform their society. Let the Christians work in the North-East to bring more tolerance and peace and Muslims continue to issue fatwa against terrorists as happened after the Sankat Mochan temple blast. It was commendable to see progressive Imams in mosques all over the country issue fatwa and condemn the attack in no uncertain words. Let the communists deal with Naxalism and let religious leaders deal with communalism. Each one should look inward and attend to the weaknesses of their own community. Unless this attitude dawns and communities respect each other, rather than group against each other, secularism cannot be protected in this country.

 

Reform can happen only when people look within themselves with a willingness to grow, and extend it a little further, beyond oneself, to the community. Each one should see how much anger, prejudice, hatred one carries within oneself for others.